My talk at NUS in Singapore on the nature of and evidence for evolution

When the local Humanist Society invited me to talk in Singapore, I proposed to talk about the relationship between science and religion. That made the organizers nervous, because offending religious sentiments is against the law in that country. But it’s easy to give such a talk without saying anything that would violate the law, and, after all, it was the Humanist Society.  Still, they counter-proposed that I talk about Halloween, telling me that I could apply skepticism to issues like ghosts and witches. I refused, for the issue of ghosts, goblins and the like is far less pressing than that of religious malfeasance.

In the end we compromised: I’d give a general evolution talk to the students and faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and then talk about science and religion in a discussion at the Yale-NUS consortium (a self-contained educational unit run jointly by NUS and Yale University).

I’ve put the first talk below, and it’s similar to many other talks I’ve given on the evidence for evolution, so it won’t be new to many of you. If you’re new here, and need a refresher, go ahead. (As usual, I can’t bear to listen to my own talks.) I’m told that there’s a wonky bit for 20 sec or so around 1:07:00, but that it’ll be fixed. Go to the original Vimeo site to see it full screen.

The Q&A bit starts about 1 hour and 13 minutes in and lasts for 15 minutes.

My thanks to the Singapore Humanists, NUS, and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for sponsoring my talk and providing excellent hospitality (and good noms).


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    “… offending religious sentiments is against the law in that country. ”

    That’s new to me. I’ve heard plenty of raving about how great Singapore’s science infrastructure is. Imagine uprooting from the US, getting a faculty position, digging in, and then hearing “oh, by the way…”.

    • Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      You haven’t been following the case of YouTuber Amos Yee, I take it. Yee, a teenager, got a jail sentence and fine for “wounding religious feelings” in Singapore. Actually he posted a mixture of religion ridicule, obscenity and criticism of Lee Kuan Yew, so it is hard to know what “crime” got him convicted.

  2. Ken Phelps
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    4:30 to skip the intro.

  3. rickflick
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Going right to the question and answer portion, the first question is on Gould’d NOMA. The audience interest might be in the religion vs science theme.

    • Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      It probably was. Everytime I Skype or talk to a class that is reading Why Evolution is True, over half the questions are about religion. It’s clearly on the minds of many who learn about evolution.

  4. Posted December 2, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Out of curiousity, how does the natural history museum there handle the various science-religion conflicts?

  5. Filippo
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    “Guided by Reason, Informed by Evidence, Driven by Compassion.”

    Hard to find fault with that, eh?

    • rickflick
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink


  6. Andrew
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Oh cool, a new video of Jerry to watch, I always enjoy watching new videos of him, he makes me laugh, Jerry Coyne is definitely one of my favourite people.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink


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